Introducing our Reward Partners: See special offers
What Add job title, key skills
Scroll for more!

Biggest issues facing recruitment in the UK

Published: Tuesday 30th March 2021

Read our White Paper on the biggest issues facing recruitment in the UK

The ongoing effects of Covid-19, the lockdown, Brexit, and changing candidate sentiment continue to disrupt the UK recruitment sector. As such, economic predictions by the Bank of England (BOE) and The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) point to difficult times for both hirers and candidates in 2021, with the OBR forecasting 7.5% of the UK working-age population will be out of work by the middle of 2021 and the BOE suggesting 7.7%. This is approximately 2.8 million people. However, vaccinations and a clearer roadmap out of lockdown are leading some sectors to show optimistic signs of recovery. The Chartered Institute for Procurement & Supply revealed that confidence among UK manufacturers was higher at the beginning of 2021 than it had been for six years.

Meanwhile, recent findings from the professional body for UK recruitment businesses showed a small rise in permanent placements and a sharp hike in temp placements at the end of 2020, perhaps reflecting the ongoing reluctance of many companies to offer permanent positions at this time. In the face of such disruption, we wanted to learn more about the views of recruitment professionals in the UK. This survey was sent to approximately 2,300 Zoek-registered hirers covering every industry and candidate level. Focused on UK hirer sentiment for 2021, issues covered include the biggest problems facing the industry, predictions, and how recruiters are coping with the switch from an employee-driven market to an employer-driven one.

Get the full white paper results and research

Key findings

Interviewee shakes hands with hiring manager

  • Over 68% of hirers believe accurate candidate matching is becoming harder.
  • 50% of hirers say multiple-sector online job boards are the most effective way of finding quality candidates.
  • More than half of hirers surveyed believe finding accurately matched candidates will be the biggest issue facing UK recruitment in 2021.
  • 60% believe companies need to be more flexible in their skills & experience requirements.


All participants surveyed were from the Zoek database of approximately 2,300 registered hirers who opted into marketing activity. These consist of temp, general, specialist, and executive recruitment agencies, as well as direct hirers from companies of every size and sector in the UK. Direct hirers are classed as companies posting jobs directly onto Zoek and not via a recruitment agency. Just over 40% of hirers surveyed were from recruitment agencies. This was followed by small and medium-sized direct hirers (26% each) and large-sized direct hirers (6%). In terms of ages, 40% of respondents were aged 46-55. This was followed by those aged 25-35 (26%), 36-45 (13%), 56+ (13%) and 18-24 (6%).

Matching hirer and candidate requirements

The first set of questions focused on the different issues currently facing UK hirers. These include falling job numbers, increased application volume, and changing candidate and employer sentiment. Questions looked at how hirers advertise jobs online, their biggest problems, and what recruitment methods were proving to be most effective.

Covid-19 and the subsequent lockdowns, as well as Brexit and changing hirer and candidate priorities, have significantly disrupted the UK recruitment sector. Matching candidates with job requirements emerged as the biggest issue for 69% of hirers currently recruiting online. This was followed by dealing with increasing applications (13% of hirers). This increase in candidates is of course a direct consequence of the ongoing effects of the UK lockdown. A further 13% of hirers pointed to ‘other’ issues. These were: ‘dealing with a lack of quality candidates’, ‘meeting changing candidate demands’, and a ‘combination of all the above.’

Continue reading about the biggest issues facing recruitment…

Interested in finding out more about the subjects raised on this page?
Simply click on the tags below to read related blog posts...